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Adams: Son of Chamber Symphony / String Quartet


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Audio CD, May 31, 2011
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Product Details

  • Performer: St. Lawrence String Quartet
  • Orchestra: International Contemporary Ensemble
  • Conductor: John Adams
  • Composer: John Adams
  • Audio CD (May 31, 2011)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B004WJRIUA
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,396 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Son of Chamber Symphony I
2. Son of Chamber Symphony II
3. Son of Chamber Symphony III
4. String Quartet I
5. String Quartet II

Editorial Reviews

John Adams' SON OF CHAMBER SYMPHONY (2007) is performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), led by the composer, and Adams' String Quartet (2008) is performed by the St. Lawrence String Quartet, the ensemble for which the piece was written. This is the first recording of both works.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Michael Suh on June 7, 2011
Format: Audio CD
The two works presented here are among John Adams's newest chamber compositions. They're both a little bit on the "derivative" side -- lots of references to his earlier works without breaking a ton of new ground. They're both immensely enjoyable and a pleasure to listen to, even if they're not the most innovative works.

Structurally, "Son of Chamber Symphony" has a lot of predecessors in Adams's output -- the first Chamber Symphony, "Harmonium", "Harmonielehre", "Gnarly Buttons", "My Father Knew Charles Ives", "Road Movies", "Naive and Sentimental Music", "Century Rolls", etc. I read somewhere that Adams was once asked when he would finally write something that wasn't in a three movement fast-slow-fast form. That criticism is perhaps most strongly appropriate here.

Each of the movement's character has strong hints of one or more of the works above, and then some. The first movement has a very "Adamsian" type of buildup to open it, with a basic rhythm and a increasingly complex layering of rhythm and sound entering. It picks up where the first "Chamber Symphony" left off -- a few goofy riffs, prepared pianos making some nutty sounds, and a few hyperactive violinists later in the movement. The second movement reminds me of The Lake from "Ives" -- a beautiful melody with a nostalgic element to it -- but it gets twisted as the time goes by. The third movement has the most hints of throwbacks -- the pounding minor thirds clearly recall Nixon in China, there's a blatant quote of the final movement of "Harmonielehre". It ends with some trash can lids being used as cymbals and a few inspired percussive whispers.

I don't know why Adams finds the form of the chamber symphony to be full of slapstick and farce.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Debra Jan Bibel TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 14, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Of that generation who challenged authority and convention while swimming in popular culture, John Adams has continually presented us compositions of complex development, orchestral color, propulsion, subversive wit, accessibility, joy and solemnity, spirituality and fun. Sometimes his works are emotional, other times intellectual, often both. Like its predecessor, Son of Chamber Symphony has a jazzy urgency, a bevy of lyrical passages, and danceable jagged rhythms. The third movement is punctuated throughout by bass drum and closes with a "delicately pulsing trash can lid", which fits better than the customary sound of cymbals. Adams is happy to parody himself, too, and we hear touches of Harmonielehre (his breakthrough piece). Adams tells us that this work was choreographed by Mark Morris (whose ballets I always attend in Berkeley), and I very much look forward someday to seeing how it was adapted. The abstraction of Adam's cheerful 24-minute symphony is itself dazzling. Once again forceful movement and melody is at the core in the second offering, a string quartet, oddly (for Adams) entited "String Quartet". Such chamber pieces are often introspective studies of form, and Adams divides this work into two main parts but with four subsections in the first. The variety and continual changes does not entirely work for me in fashioning a cohesive whole, especially in mood. However interesting, it ultimately seems more an exercise in virtuosity. The St. Lawrence String Quartet, for whom the work was composed and who find a home in Haydn and late, serious Beethoven, perform this modern work admirably. Adams himself leads an international ensemble for the chamber symphony.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By William J. Coburn on June 3, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
John Adams is a very talented composer whose works are not formulaic. For example, his short opera, I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky, uses Motown, and one of the songs, "I Was Struck by the Rock I Was Standing On" is rock music; any rock group would be proud to have written it. Son of Chamber Symphony, whose title plays with the names of so many B movie sequels, like Son of Frankenstein and Daughter of Dracula, is a very inventive work that is Adams' homage to Schoenberg's chamber symphonies, especially the first one. However, Adams piece does not present a mere copy of Schoenberg's work; instead, Adams incorporates minimalism, Stravinsky's neo-classicism and some jazz. Adams' earlier work Harmonielehre is similar; Adams adds minimalism, dazzling orchestration, his own take on Parsifal in the second movement and a humorous tribute to his daughter and Meister Eckhart, a medieval mystic, in the third movement. The second piece on this disc, String Quartet, is more compact but well written like the chamber symphony. Of course, Adams does not create just another string quartet; for example, in the last movement he uses something like a Morse code signal instead of a recurring theme which would be more typical in a traditional rondo.
I always look forward to a new work from Adams. He does not just toss off another piece, like too many creative artists of all types do, and that includes writers and painters also. I hope others will enjoy his music as much as I do.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Milan Simich on August 13, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I bought this for the string quartet, which I was not able to attend when the St. Lawrence performed it live. It's a difficult piece, I might not even 'like' it, but I keep going back to it. The second movement is pure Janacek. Who would have thought that from Adams?

I saw the Son Of conducted by Adams. It's a fun piece when you hear it live, but on record it sounds inconsaquential.
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